With everything in the news lately about the sexual misdeeds of famous men over a “certain age”, I thought I would add my experiences and opinion to the conversation. Growing up in the 60’s and beyond, being a observant, untrusting, sexually abused, and female has given me some different insights into the sexual politics that are busting the headlines in the news today.
I always knew some men, especially those who were a certain age, usually ten to fifteen years or so older than me, behaved differently, thought differently, and did things inappropriate to my sensibilities. I always noticed off-handed comments, looks, and even inappropriate touches seemed almost acceptable and even excusable if made by a man of a certain age. It always made me feel uncomfortable, even dirty, even if they weren’t directed at me. Even if they were directed to grown women, it was “expected” and ignored, but never ever talked about!
I alway thought it was me…maybe I was over-sensitive, maybe the circumstances of my birth left me with a scarlet letter and made them behave that way, or could it be the sexual abuse I suffered at age nine somehow showed and made me a target, or was it the fact that I developed young, like all the women in my family, I was full figured! What made them think this was okay, what was it that made them feel it was expectable, and why were they so sure I wouldn’t say anything? The one thing they got right was I wouldn’t say anything, not until years later! Father’s Day and a Girl’s Broken Heart
Why didn’t I say anything, not about the abuse at nine, not about the inappropriate comments or looks, and certainly not the touches. Why are all these people coming out now 10-20-30 years later? Because in that time, even though things were changing, especially with my generation and later ones, women had little to no power, we weren’t believed, told not to talk about that, or it was our word against theirs and our word wasn’t as valuable. Also, some inappropriate behaviors were excused as just the way it is or just ignore them, it doesn’t mean anything. Oh contraire!!!! I can tell you as a young woman it does matter, it does mean something to you, and it changes who you are; as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, and grandmother! To this day, I don’t trust anyone, especially men, I always feel uncomfortable and suspicious, and I can tell you I was such an overprotective big sister, mother, and I’m even worse as a grandmother. Just yesterday my granddaughter made a comment about a grown man friend requesting her on Facebook and I flipped out! I was immediately taken back to that little girl, who had no idea how to navigate an adult world, deal adult men, or didn’t have anyone to guide me or explain anything to me. I will not let her suffer that same fate! I have no control over her Facebook or who and what she encounters in this world, but I can guide her, listen to her, and tell her my experiences, so she knows what to watch for and to TELL, TELL, TELL, EVERYONE RIGHT NOW!!! Happy Holidays, but wait a minute, is it all happy all the time, for everyone?
Why do so many women wait years to tell their story and why does it seem like they are ants, one shows up to the picnic and then there are dozens coming out of the woodwork? For me it was a triggering moment in time; I was setting at the dining room table at my mother and stepfather’s house, my husband was deployed overseas with the military, I was there for the three months of his deployment, because I had been so sick I was afraid if I had stayed 1000’s of miles away from any family and I got sick, who would help me take care of my small children? I spent that summer going between family and friends and using my parent’s home as a sort of home base.
The day the trigger was tripped in me started with my children and I am having to stay there for the weekend, because no one else had room for us, that weekend. I was told about five in the evening that a “family member” was coming by on his way back to his home. He had been in Texas training for a new job and was headed back to spend the weekend with his girlfriend and her children. I was immediately alarmed, as this “family member” was one of my abusers at nine. My first thoughts went to my young children, as I believe it should. My first order of business was to call my husband and make sure if the “family member” were to stay at their house for the night, the children and I would be checking into a hotel. I needed to know if there was enough money in the account to pay for a hotel? My husband assured me it was fine and if I felt I needed to go to a hotel, I should do whatever I needed to do to make myself comfortable and protect our children.
Second order of business, hurry up get my children fed dinner and put them into the back bedroom with a movie and toys to keep them busy. I instructed them not to come out, if they needed anything they were to call me, and under no circumstances were they to open the door for anyone, but me! I told you abuse changes who you become. I don’t know if I would have been the overprotective, frightened, fiercely protective mother I am if my early life had been easier. I only know life after the abuse and who it made me.
Now with the children safety tucked away, I went out to set and wait on my abuser to arrive. While we sat at the table waiting, my stepfather told me the reason for this unexpected visit. It seems the “family member” was behind on his child support and he had given his ex-wife some signed checks to cash every Friday to catch him up. Well, instead of cashing a check for a certain amount, when he got paid, she cleaned out his account! I don’t blame her, I would have done the same! The catch was he didn’t know my parents knew this and they had no intention of telling him. He told them he was having problems with his ATM (debit) card not letting him get cash out for gas to get back home. He knew why, but had no intention of telling them. His purpose was to get them to give him gas money.
The problem for me, here I was trying to protect my children, honor and obey my parents; like the Bible says, and avoid being anywhere around this “family member”! But my intentions were derailed by my “parents”!! Why now do I put parents in parentheses? In my mind a parent is to love, respect, protect, and nurture their child and after this I knew these couldn’t be my parents, they did none of these things for me, not in that moment!
So I’m sitting there, at the table across from my mother, and the “family member” is explaining that he can’t get any cash. Then my stepdad actually said, “we don’t have an ATM card but, Elizabeth does, she’ll ride up there with you and help you get some money!” My mind raced! What? Excuse me!! I looked up at my mother and all she did was look down and never said a word! You too?! Really!! Who are these people? Do you honestly care that little about me? It was the first time I actually saw everything! My eyes were open and I WAS DONE!!
I looked my stepdad in the eyes and said, “like Hell I will!”. I got up and went to the back room where my children were, in shock! They really don’t care about me anymore than that? The “family member” was obviously under the influence, of alcohol and likely marijuana too. They want me to get in a car, with this child molester, put my life in jeopardy, to help him get money that they know isn’t there!! I looked at my children and ask, “what do y’all think about going home early?”.
To my surprise, they got up and started packing their stuff, they were SO ready to leave that place! I explained to them that we would be living in the camper, until we moved from Massachusetts. They were fine with that, they just wanted to go home! So home we went.
My life was forever changed that day. Just like every other time people say and do inappropriate things. Every time someone makes an crude joke, cops a feel, makes a comment about an outfit, or makes an inappropriate comment. It changes us as women and in all the roles we play as women. We don’t say anything for fear of not being believed, fear of being labeled like the “other” women in Bill Clinton’s life, of rocking the boat of our life, or family’s life, it all boils down to fear. As long as the abusers can keep us afraid, the longer they can keep us quite, and the longer they control us. That’s what it all boils down to CONTROL, keep your victim afraid and in your control. No matter what type of abuse it is, it’s all about fear and control and once you take that away from the abuser you can no longer be abused!